Staying cooped up indoors during the fall and winter seasons is stifling and even unhealthy. Kids (and adults!) need fresh air, exercise, and proper exposure to sunlight, no matter what time of year it is. Some time playing on a swing or stomping on crunchy leaves can do wonders. Unfortunately, cold weather means wet and often icy surfaces, which can make a lot of your kids’ favorite playground equipment hazardous. Let’s take a look at what kinds of equipment are better to avoid during the colder months, and which make for great fun all year-round.
Ramps and Stairs
Sloped climbing walls and simple ramps can become very slippery when there are wet leaves on the ground or in freezing weather. Climbing up or down on any surface that doesn’t provide secure footing isn’t something kids should do without also using secure handholds, or while being assisted by a guardian. Stairs are also a significant hazard, even though they appear significantly safer than tilted ramps. Simply because of their shape, they pose a greater risk of injury in the event that a child does slip, which is not uncommon when descending on icy steps in the heat of a game.
Concrete and blacktop aren’t safe for play areas, even during summer. These kinds of surfaces are rough and hard, making them very dangerous to fall on. Most playgrounds today will be installed over a deep layer of fill material such as sand or wood chips that can act as a shock absorber.
Unfortunately, a lot of old playgrounds still have some of all of their equipment set on top of a hard surface. In freezing weather, these can accumulate black ice, which is difficult to see and prepare for, even for adults who know to look for it. Parents who allow their kids to use these facilities in the summer months because they have no better options should always avoid these in winter. Falling down on asphalt while running and playing can cause serious injuries.
Steel climbing equipment
Climbing on monkey bars, climbing domes, and ladders is great fun, and an excellent way to develop upper body strength. Unfortunately, these are better avoided in cold weather. Not only do galvanized steel bars become slippery very easily, they’re also just very uncomfortable to grip because of their icy temperature. This can be painful, and a child might easily decide to take a risky jump to avoid having to continue to grip the handholds.
What Equipment is Safest?
While these restrictions do limit your kids’ play options a bit, there are still plenty of perfectly safe play options. Swinging on a swing set, going down slides, playing on see-saws, and using other play equipment that doesn’t present serious falling hazards and doesn’t rely on stable footing is perfectly safe. Just make sure to wipe down any wet seats so the fun isn’t ruined by sitting down into a seat-puddle.